HONOLULU – This is a story about a college kid who needed a job. It isn’t a unique story. Every kid rapidly approaching graduation at some point comes to the realization that the real world is calling, that keg parties and coeds are eventually going to give way to responsibility and maturity – a sad truth if there ever was one.
It was two years ago when this particular kid was a senior, on the verge of handing in the final paper of his college life. His career field already picked out, he went on a job interview with a big-time conglomeration. He knew it was a long shot. Knew he’d have to nail the interview and surpass every other applicant to get the gig.
These tales usually end with disappointment, but not this time. The kid floored ‘em. Beat out everybody else and cemented his spot among the employed as soon as he graduated. They say you could hear the celebration from miles away.
And it didn’t stop there. In his first year on the job, the kid wowed ‘em again. He was one of the best of the best at this level. Even before the year was over, it was clear. He was going to earn that big promotion.
So now this kid – still not far removed from keg parties and coeds – has landed his dream job. He’s in the exact position he’s wanted ever since he could remember. That sentiment alone would be enough to make some young men crumble. Maybe they’d become fearful of finding success in this role. Or maybe they get complacent, thinking they didn’t have to work as hard now that they’ve made it.
Not him, though. In his first two days on the job, competing against professionals who have served in this same capacity not for days or even months, but years upon years, the kid proves himself as the best of the best once again. Not for the long-term, not even for the impending future. But for these two days, at the very least, he is the best, based on the only result that really matters in this job.
This is the point in the story where details must be provided. The college from which the kid graduated was the University of Georgia. His chosen career field was professional golfer. The job interview took place at the Stadion Classic right there near campus, a tournament on the erstwhile Nationwide Tour which he won as an amateur, solidifying his home for the next year. That home was the same circuit, renamed that season to the Web.com Tour, and his first year included a pair of victories. The promotion was a call-up to the PGA Tour. And those two days, the first two days on the job where he bested everyone else in his profession, they came at the Sony Open.
The kid’s name is Russell Henley.
It’s been exactly 614 days since that job interview – or, if you prefer, one year, eight months and three days. In that time, he’s gone from a college kid on the verge of facing the real world without a job to an established professional, one who just posted back-to-back rounds of 7-under 63 to claim the lead going into the weekend at the season’s first full-field event.
That fact hasn’t been lost on him. He isn’t taking his current position for granted.
“I’ve got some friends back home who have been to Atlanta for a job, have come back home and are still looking for what they want to do,” Henley explains. “I’ve got a guy who moved out west. I’m like, ‘What are you doing for a living?’ ‘I’m working at a ski resort.’ I’m like, ‘What do you do there?’ ‘I just put all the extra rented equipment up when they get done.’
“I’m thinking, I could never see myself doing that. It makes me definitely appreciate what I’m doing a lot more.”
Many others are appreciating what he’s doing, too. His two-round total of 126 is the lowest in Sony Open history and matches the lowest 36-hole score for a PGA Tour rookie since 1970. He’s carded 15 birdies and just one bogey. And he’s done it all with a smile on his face, like a kid still thrilled to have his dream job.
Henley may drop from the leaderboard. He certainly won’t always find the same success he’s had here so far. Just don’t expect that smile to fade anytime soon. For a kid not far removed from facing post-college life without employment, this is exactly where he wants to be.
It’s like he says: “I’m living the dream, doing what I want to do.”
This was a story about a college kid who needed a job. It wasn’t a unique story. Not until Russell Henley made it unique, turning an opportunity into a career. He isn’t about to forget that anytime soon.